February Gardening Guidelines

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This article was written by Becky Garrett, Extension Master Gardener℠ Volunteer with North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.

Watch and Wait activities:

  • Give garden tools some TLC.
  • Study Table 1 in the publication “Central North Carolina Planting Calendar for Annual Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs” for the purpose of planning a vegetable garden. (See Resources at bottom of this document.)
  • If you plan to order seed and plants from catalogs, complete this task now.
  • Keep an eye on the weather. Protect tender plants from cold snaps with appropriate covers.
  • Get your soil tested through the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. Soil tests cost $4 this time of year. (They are free from April 1 to after Thanksgiving.)

Pruning tasks:

  • Finish trimming back perennials and grasses before early March.
  • Cut back beautyberry, butterfly bush, hybrid tea and Knockout roses, and summer blooming spireas. Cutting them back to 1’-2’ high will encourage lots of new growth and heavy flowering for summer.
  • Trim off seed heads and remove crossed branches on Vitex and crape myrtle. Avoid committing “crape murder,” which is cutting these trees back to bare trunks. This produces unsightly knobby growth and weak branches.
  • Remember not to prune spring-blooming shrubs until after they finish blooming. These include forsythia, azaleas, Indian hawthorn, camelias, and most hydrangeas.
  • In contrast are some hydrangeas that only produce blooms on new growth. They should be cut back in February. These include the old fashion PeeGee and newer selections of Hydrangea paniculata, such as ‘Limelight’ and ‘Pink Diamond.’

Vegetable Gardens:

  • Spring gardens should be started in February and early March.
  • Seeds of vegetables like carrots, garden peas, snow peas, spinach, radish, mustard and turnips can be sown in the garden by mid-February.
  • Transplants of broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, Swiss chard, parsley, and cilantro can be set out in February and early March.
  • For a crop of potatoes in May and June, plant seed potatoes now.
  • Seeds can be started indoors for slower-growing, warm-season vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant.
  • Those somewhat new to gardening may want to read the article “Vegetable Gardening: A Beginner’s Guide.” See the resources below for the link.
  • Also, see the resources below for a more in-depth gardening article.


  • Lawns in our area do not need to be fertilized before April. Fertilizing too early can increase disease problems and cold injury.
  • A herbicide containing 2,4-D can be sprayed to control broadleaf weeds that are already growing in the lawn. Always read package instructions and warnings carefully, especially if your lawn is a warm-season grass.
  • If crabgrass is a problem in your lawn during the summer, apply a pre-emergent herbicide labeled for crabgrass prevention in February. Avoid weed and feed products because it is too early to fertilize.
  • For your specific grass type, check recommendations for growth and maintenance on the TurfFiles webpage maintained by NC State University.

Resources sited in February Gardening Guidelines

Caring for your tools:


Planning your garden:

Protect plants from cold:

Soil testing in North Carolina:

Vegetable gardening information:


Becky Garrett is an Extension Master Gardener℠ Volunteer with North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.